Hungary kicked off the home party with a 1-2 in the 400m IM with Katinka Hosszu winning again, then Russia’s Martin Malyutin claimed gold in the 400m free, followed by a world record blast from compatriot Kliment Kolesnikov in the men’s 50m back. Kolesnikov later anchored the Russian relay to a stunning win in the 4x100m free while Britain triumphed among the women – for the first time since 1927.
Hungary’s medley queen Katinka Hosszu, after a year of suffering without races, put everything together to be ready for the home Europeans. Landing shortly before the start after a training camp, she was back on top and ruled the field once more, leading the race from the beginning and her 4:34 was reminiscent of her old self. It was a Magyar 1-2 at the end – the morning showed the hosts’ usual strength in medley, they claimed four of the first five places in the heats though only the two best could advance and Viktoria Mihalyvari-Farkas could repeat her great swim from the morning to finish runner-up, tied with Britain’s Aimee Willmott.
Next came the men’s 400m which promised a pretty tight race as six swimmers came within 0.6sec in the morning. A bit surprisingly, the winner to hit in first swam on lane 7: Martin Malyutin turned 5th at the halfway mark but switched gears and managed to pass Felix Aubock on lane 6 over the last 50m. The Austrian was still all tears while talking after the race as he celebrated his first-ever medal after missing the podium twice in 2016 and 2018 (was 4th). To complete the ‘outsiders’ triumphs, Lithuania’s Danas Rapysis came third on lane 1.
The middle part of the opening day schedule usually does not promise too much excitements with a series of semi-finals but this time Kliment Kolesnikov re-wrote the headlines by setting a new world record (23.93) in the 50m back. The Russian rocket beat his own mark he had clocked in Glasgow 2018, becoming the first man ever going under 24.00 seconds.
Kolesnikov went on speeding, in the men’s 4x100m free relay he anchored the Russians to victory while clocking 47.10, the best split in the evening. They had three 47sec laps like the Italians but Kolesnikov made the difference at the end just like Britain’s Duncan Scott whose 47.19 gave his team the edge over Italy, by 0.31sec. GB waited for this quite long: beforehand, team GB stood on the podium in the sprint relay in 1962. By then the Brits had already bagged a relay gold among the women – a truly amazing outcome as their last win in this event dates back to the very first time this relay was in the programme: in Bologna 1927. And the last time they had a medal at all was in 2010, apparently here in Budapest.